May 1, 2014
By the CVU School Board
In 1960, Shelburne resident Barbara Snelling, wife of future Governor Richard Snelling, chaired an Exploratory Committee to study the possibility of creating a supervisory school district to provide one regional high school for area elementary schools. Sound familiar? The tension between retaining or consolidating local school districts is as fresh and relevant in Vermont today as it was 50 years ago. If the past informs the future, the remarkable success of Champlain Valley Union High School serves as an exemplar for the great potential and challenges that define school consolidation efforts. Thankfully, we are all the beneficiaries of the epic efforts of Mrs. Snelling and a cadre of community leaders who exemplified the strong leadership, innovation and sense of community that continue to be the hallmark qualities that define and enhance the CVUHS community today. Our story is extraordinary.
From the start, things moved quickly. IBM had arrived, population was growing rapidly. Vermont was awakening from a century long snooze. The Exploratory Committee, comprised of the towns of Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne, St. George and Williston, worked quickly. By 1962, the towns approved the supervisory union. An organizational committee was quickly formed, a school board elected and building plan completed.
The August 1962 ground breaking anticipated a September 1964 school opening. The new building was mandated to be “…. A simple, practical structure, without frills, to accommodate 750 students and be expandable to 1000.” The completed structure was comprised of three separate buildings connected by breezeways. It was guaranteed to handle anticipated enrollments for 10 years. At the last minute, the board dropped the track and greenhouse to meet their frugal budget.
In the meantime, the board hired a superintendant, principal and faculty, purchased furniture, created and approved policies, developed curriculum and bought six school busses. The school was ready a month ahead of schedule. The new board (chaired by Barbara Snelling) noted “a most rewarding association” with the construction contractors.
Doors opened in 1964. CVU served 13 area elementary schools with an initial enrollment of 460 students. The faculty had one week to prepare for the first day of school. The school board faced two alarming concerns: it needed one more bus and ten more teachers! As soon as the first student stepped into the school, the school board was faced with the realization that student population was to increase at a far faster rate than anyone had anticipated. In fact, in 1966, new projections anticipated that student population would reach 2,400 in eight years! The board proposed two bonds to expand the school. Both were defeated. Instead, in 1968—just four years old—CVU purchased its first temps—modular classrooms that, we would eventually learn, served CVU with a remarkable sense of permanence!
In spite of these concerns, CVU was off to a great start. The board noted that, “…from the beginning, the community has demonstrated its enthusiasm and support for the school.” The newly hired faculty was “an extremely well prepared professional staff” and Principal Vince Durnan noted “the students quickly absorbed into the greatly expanded program of courses and became a close knit student body, function as a unit.” CVU won the State Championship for soccer in 1964 AND 1965. Soccer Central had arrived.
In 1968, Barbara Snelling, announced her resignation as chair of the CVUHS School Board. Her vision and leadership left an indelible mark for future generations of students, teachers, administrators and school board members. Her legacy provided a rock solid foundation which would serve us well during the tumultuous ‘70s. Her departure corresponded with the purchase of four more temps. No one had anticipated that overcrowding would emerge so quickly as such a paramount concern.
Our great tradition for innovation was born of necessity. With two failed construction bonds, how were we to deal with our instant overcrowding? In 1966, Principal Vincent Durnan proposed some possible solutions for restructuring staff and facilities to accommodate growing enrollment. The considerations included: team teaching, correspondence courses, independent research projects, staggered session, UVM courses, summer school, off campus classrooms, an extended school year and CVU’s original and nationally recognized scheduling that allowed for classes of various lengths. None of these innovative ideas required added expense…
Sound familiar? See the full article online if you want to learn more about your CVU decade and how the school has overcome past challenges to become the school it is today. Visit cssu.org and click “CVU Turns 50” in the Headlines sidebar on the right side of the page.
Calling CVU alumni, teachers, staff and administrators
CVU is launching its 50th anniversary celebrations by inviting all alumni and former teachers, staff and administrators to walk with the 50th graduating class of Champlain Valley Union High School at its commencement on June 13 at Patrick Gym in Burlington. An alumni reception will follow the ceremony.
For more information, to RSVP or volunteer or stay updated about CVU 50, visit the 50th celebration Facebook page, email [email protected] or call CVU at 482-7111.